Businesses in court ask for Central Corridor impact study

Swapping signage
A Central Corridor light rail construction crew member swaps signage outside The Best Steak House in St. Paul, Minn. Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012. Some St. Paul business owners went to court today to try to convince a federal judge that light-rail planners are taking too long to study how Central Corridor construction is affecting them.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

The St. Paul NAACP and Rondo neighborhood community members want light-rail planners to speed up a study on the effects of Central Corridor Light rail construction on businesses.

This is the latest development in a court battle that has drawn out for nearly three years. The plaintiffs say they are still fighting for the business analysis even though construction is mostly complete.

In January 2011, a federal judge ordered light-rail planners to conduct such an analysis. The Metropolitan Council said it needed local data that did not become available until August 2012. The agency said it is working in good faith, and a draft report should be out next month.

The nearly billion-dollar project will be substantially complete by the end of the year.

Attorney Tom DeVincke represents the businesses and says the government has dragged its feet.

"It's clear they waited more than four months to hire the contractor who is doing some of the work on the environmental-impact statement. We think that delay was unreasonable," DeVincke said. "We understand that these things move slowly than one might suggest but this is too much."

The group is asking Judge Donovan Frank to order the planners to wrap up the analysis within 30 days or halt the project.

Arnellia Allen said her live music club has lost about 75 percent of revenue since work began.

"I just don't get no business no more. It's ridiculous," Allen said. "I don't know what I'm going to do."

Allen said she received about $11,000 from the Metropolitan Council. But she is hoping that a more involved study will show that businesses need additional funding.